Report on UN/New York Trip

November, 2002

From: Dave Knight


I landed at Kennedy Airport late on Thursday night and stayed with a friend in Brooklyn. Unfortunately my luggage did not land until Sunday. So Friday was spent shopping for essentials and catching up with people from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in New York and those who had come to attend the NGO Strategy Summit and/or the UN First Committee.

NGO Strategy Summit

The Summit was organised by the Reaching Critical Will project of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) to “review and strategize on international security … with a view to enhancing civil society influence …”.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala addressed a reception on Friday evening and sessions all day Saturday and Sunday covered: political context, funding, disarmament education and strategic planning. In addition the current agenda for disarmament and security was discussed with a panel of diplomats. Participants came from Cameroon, Canada, France, Japan, Malaysia, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, the UK and many parts of the USA and represented a variety of organisations.

One of the clear messages of the Funding session was the need for grassroots activism, of many types, and grassroots fundraising and that NGOs can get “lazy” over outreach if they come to rely on Foundation funding.

Clearly the Global Network is moving in the right direction with our focus on outreach to the public generally and our linking with economic, environmental, health, justice and education issues.

UN First Committee

Attending the sessions of the First Committee to see the voting on resolutions and listen to “explanations of voting” is not the most exciting experience. But since the main reason for my presence on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was to discuss the issues of concern to the Global Network with government delegates, and I had by then been reunited with my suit and tie, it was worth the effort.

I had one-to-one meetings with a dozen delegates from a variety of states: Nuclear Weapon States (NWS), New Agenda Coalition (NAC), Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), European Union (EU) and NATO. Some states, of course, fall into more than one group. Parts of these discussions, sometimes all, are often “off the record” which, while adding to the general information on the issues, cannot be quoted or attributed directly.

There was clear concern about the issue of weaponisation of space but little hope of any progress soon on a new Outer Space Treaty. See my interim report: “From the UN First Committee” for voting and comments on this and other points.

Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) programmes are at last on the UN disarmament agenda as causing concern with regard to nuclear disarmament and a new arms race on earth and in space. The NAC resolution, which involves them, was passed by 118 Yes votes to 7 No with 38 Abstaining. However, even though TMD is not specified, its inclusion is clearly meeting opposition from states that are involved in TMD programmes. Also we still have some way to go to convince even some generally supportive states that TMD is as great a danger, if not greater, than so-called National Missile Defence (NMD).

The Report of the UN Panel of Governmental Experts on ballistic missiles which was set up following a resolution introduced by Iran was fine as a review of the situation but failed to provide any response to question of control of use of missiles or a missile ban. Thus attitudes on the control of missiles tend to be split between those states that are members of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and those that are not. Those in the MTCR are generally putting their faith in the International Code of Conduct, which they have negotiated. To be frank, it will not do the job of stopping the proliferation of missiles. Other states wish to deal with missiles within the UN with a “comprehensive, non-discriminatory and balanced” approach. The Committee voted to continue consultations on the Experts Group.

Discussions with supportive and not so supportive states and states which are clearly opposed to our views will continue in Geneva next year at the Conference on Disarmament and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Preparatory Committee. However grassroots lobbying of their own governments by members of the Global Network and the raising of the media profile will greatly enhance the chances of keeping our issues on the disarmament agenda.

Only the involvement of radical campaigns will lead to radical treaties.


Thanks to Sonya Ostrom for putting me up, yet again!

Thanks also to Jackie Cabasso of the Western States Legal Foundation firstly for writing a Statement on Iraq following discussion at the Abolition 2000 International Global Council meeting on Saturday night. Secondly, she had the foresight to be celebrating her 50th birthday. That meant that we could have a party on the Monday night, which was a real international family event.

Major thanks, for organising the Summit and for general support during my visit, to Emily Schroeder, Project Associate, Reaching Critical Will and a member of the GN Advisory Board and Merav Datan, Director, WILPF UN Office. Details of the resolutions, voting and analysis for the First Committee can be found at

Dave Knight
Chair, Advisory Committee
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

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